Pago Youth returned happy with their efforts in Cook Islands during the 2019 OFC Champions League qualifiers against the best from Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga.
“It was a great tournament for us because even though we lost all of our games, we were very competitive in all of them, especially against the champions from Samoa (Kiwi FC) and Cook Islands (Tupapa Maraerenga),” said the club’s president, Silasila Samuelu.
He and the team returned on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019.
In their opening game they lost to Tonga’s Lotoha’apai United FC 5-1 on January 26, but in their last two games they lost by only a goal. They fell to the champions of Samoa, Kiwi FC, 4-3 in a very spirited game of back and forth, and lost to the hosts Tupapa Maraerenga, 2-1.
In their last game, they were without two of their top players, Ryan Samuelu who was serving out a suspension on accumulated cards, and Palauni Tapusoa, who had to rush back home before the end of the tournament for a family emergency.
“Despite the absence of those two players, our players gave their hearts out on the field against the tournament’s champions,” Samuelu said.
Their team’s coach, Faimalo ‘Rambo’ Tapui, was also registered as a player, appearing in the final third of the second game, but suiting up as a starter against Tupapa.
Pago Youth will represent American Samoa again at the next Champions League qualifiers against the winners from the same countries — Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga — later this year after winning last year’s National League title again, and it is an opportunity Samuelu is looking forward to.
“The performance of my team in this tournament has lifted our spirits and is giving my players the motivation to train hard until the next qualifiers,” the club’s president said. “I believe it will be held in Samoa later this year and we are going to go their ready and looking to win the tournament. I believe we have maybe one or two positions to firm up to give us a chance at winning.”